Imke slowly opened her eyes. It took several minutes before she identified the Vanguard’s infirmary by the gilded ceiling. It didn’t help that vision in one eye was still a little blurry.

She felt like a munched cog, for sure. Her body ached, and going right back to sleep sounded tempting–but so did drinking an entire lake. 

Someone had been on alert, because the slightest rustling of her sheets had Ambrosine shuffling over. 

“You sure do know how to pick your seats at these events, don’t you, Imke.” Ambrosine pressed the back of her hand to the engineer’s forehead, and then slowly helped her sit up. 

“Guess Lance explained.” Imke had, by sheer dint of luck, chosen a seat on the very edge of the stage at a charity dance. A bomb had been placed underneath. Everyone closer had been killed, and it was no small amount of luck that had Imke hearing a strange noise and diving some feet further away.

“Yes. He’s been fairly glued to your side as soon as he was free–I have him sleeping in one of the other beds right now, in fact.” Ambrosine pressed a glass of cold water into her hands, then carefully lowered herself into a nearby chair. Imke felt a twinge of guilt for hauling the heavily pregnant woman out of her home.

“Take it I was a right mess?” Half the glass was gone in seconds.

“The druid–at least, it felt like druid healing–who tended you at one point did a good job. But I noticed that the levels of chemicals in your system were at toxic levels by the time you got to me.” Ambrosine squinted suspiciously.

Imke weakly waved a hand. “Whatsit’s triage programmin’ will take calculated risks.”

“I see that.” Ambrosine folded her hands in her lap. “I had to find traces of the other healer’s magic to guess at the full extent of your original injuries. You ruptured your tympanic membrane, had ossicular disruption–“


“You done fucked up your ears, girl. And one of your eyes, plus you fractured some bones in the arm you landed on–I presume. Damage to your lungs, burns…” A sigh. “Like I said, the previous healers who saw to you did a decent job for field healing, on top of whatever alchemical nonsense you pumped into yourself. I just had a lot of cleanup and fine detail work to take care of. You are to rest, you understand? I will tell Lance every restriction you have, because I trust him to see that you follow them.”

“Fighting dirty,” Imke muttered darkly.

“Damned straight.”

“…he was really upset, wasn’t he?”

“Twisting himself into knots.”

Imke started to say, I’ve been worse, but then closed her mouth. No she hadn’t, actually. “…well. Am I well enough t’ go home, at least?” And get out of Ambrosine’s hair. And sleep in her own bed, preferably with said worried, pretty boy.  “An’…like, you fixed stuff, right? In time? I ain’t gonna have any problems?”

“You should be fine, although some things will take awhile to re-calibrate, as it were. For instance, you probably haven’t noticed that I’ve been talking louder than usual. Your eye might be a bit fuzzy for a couple of weeks yet. You’ll be tired. Eat a lot, drink a lot, sleep a lot. Those are your orders, okay? I’ll clear you to go home–once Lance wakes up. No sooner. He escorts you home or your ass stays here. Got it?”


Ambrosine leaned over and gently flicked Imke’s shoulder. “Don’t yes’m your…aunt. I don’t want to feel that old right now.”

Imke scrunched her nose. Right. On paper, that was their relationship now, even if–much as with Jim–it felt more like she’d just picked up another older sibling.  “Yes’m,” Imke said blandly, because Ambrosine’s wrath was necessarily blunted.

“Twit. Go back to sleep. I’m sure Lance’ll be at your side as soon as he wakes up.” Ambrosine refilled Imke’s glass from a nearby pitcher, then heaved herself out of the chair. “Tove’ll be on duty here in a minute.

Imke sighed and settled back down in the bed, tugging the covers up under her chin. She wished Lance wasn’t out of site, but at least he was around, and the blanket was soft, and the fountain in the background was….

She slept, and Ambrosine lingered a few more minutes before leaving.

Author Ambrosine
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